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Full text of "Kenya Birds"

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nya Birds 



HISTORY MUSEUM 

2 2 DEC 2004 

EXCHANGED 
TRING LIBRARY 




Volume 11:1 



November 2004 







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Birds of the 
water's edge 

Green Sandpiper. Usually seen 
feeding along the margins of 
streams and small dams. Note the 
relatively dark, unmarked 
upperparts and greenish legs. In 
flight, it shows a white tail, 
contrasting with the dark back and 
wings. The Green Sandpiper nests 
in Europe and Asia. 



Common Snipe. Feeds in 
marshes, lakeshores and flooded 
grassland. This migrant from 
Europe and Asia is very similar to 
the resident African Snipe. 
However, African Snipes normally 
live in highland marshes. 
Common Snipes occur in many 
parts of Kenya, from coastal 
marshes to Rift Valley lakes, 
October to March. Also note the 
more extensive white underparts 
on the Common Snipe. 




Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



Western Reef Heron. 

A few of these herons turn 
up on inland lakes, very far 
from the reef! They are 
also found along the north 
Kenya coast. Note the 
long, strong, light-coloured 
beak, white throat, and 
greenish-brown legs. The 
Western Reef Heron also 
has an all-white morph. 

All photos by Itai Shanni 
November 2004 



[ 2 2 DEC 2004 

Kenya Birds Volume 11 number 1 
Contents 



Feature Articles 

5. Unraveling Lesser 
Flamingo mysteries 




epic 

migrations 
and long 
lives 

revealed by 
ringing, 
satellite 
tracking and 
the passage 
of time 



9. Tropical & Temperate 
Birds: What is the 
difference in raising 
young? 

Comparing birds in 
Kenya and Europe 



22. Attracting Bird 

to your office, school ■ | i / 
or home 




Nesting Reports 

13. Firefinches in the bedroom 
18. Amani Sunbird in Arabuko- 
Sokoke Forest 
20. Collared Pratincole in 
Ambaseli National Park 

News & Notes 

3. Kenya Birdfinder 

4. Red-throated Tit in Naivasha 

26. White-crested Helmet- 
shrikes on the attack 

40. Storks at Olorgesailie 

41. July White Storks and 
Opportunistic Lanner Falcon 

Reports 

24. Ringing at Ngulia, 2003 

27. News from the Important 
Bird Areas 

31. Inaugural Waterbird 
Ringing Course for Africa 

34. Vulture Conservation 
Workshop in Masai Mara 

36. Waterbird Counts, July 02 
and January 03 




BirdLife 

INTERNATIONAL 




% 



HatureKenya 

The East Africa Natural History Society 



Kenya Birds is published jointly by the Department of Ornithology, National 
Museums of Kenya, and the Bird Committee of the East Africa Natural History 
Society — BirdLife in Kenya and Uganda. 

Editorial Sub-Committee: Graeme Backhurst, Gordon Boy, Mbaabu Mathiu, 
Kariuki Ndang'ang'a, Catherine Ngarachu, Fleur Ng'weno, Itai Shanni. 

Editor: Fleur Ng'weno Advertising rates for Kenya Birds and 

© Nature Kenya 2004 Nature East Africa (EANHS Bulletin): 

ISSN 1023-3679 

Separation & Printing by Image Repro 

Subscriptions: Kenya Birds is available 
on demand, free of charge, with Nature 
Kenya membership. 

Subscription rates for non-members are 

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local subscriptions) or credit card Payment should be done in full in 

payments (in dollars, for out of Kenya advance. 

subscriptions) to 'Nature Kenya'. For inquiries please contact Catherine 

Back numbers of most issues are Ngarachu at (020) 3749957 or 3746090 

available: contact the Nature Kenya or <catherine@naturekenya.org> 

office. 



Back cover 


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Contacts 

Articles and notes for Kenya Birds 

Editor, Kenya Birds, Nature Kenya, P O Box 44486 GPO, Nairobi 00100, Kenya 
E-mail: <fleur@africaonline.co.ke> or <eanhs@africaonline.co.ke> 

Records • National Birdmap • Nest record cards 

Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, P O Box 40658 GPO, 
Nairobi 00100, Kenya. Phone Nairobi 3742161/2/3/4 or 3742131/2/3/4 ext. 243, 
fax 3741424. E-mail: <kbirds@africaonline.co.ke> Website: www.museums.or.ke 

Bird Committee • birdwalks and excursions • birding hotline • 
Kenya Birds and Scopus subscriptions 

Nature Kenya, P O Box 44486, GPO Nairobi 00100, Kenya 

Phone Nairobi 3749957 or 3746090, fax 3741049 

E-mail: <office@naturekenya.org> Website: www. naturekenya.org 

2 November 2004 Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



NEWS & NOTES 



Welcome to Kenya Birdfinder! 



Phillista Malaki, Chege Kariuki and 
Titus Imboma welcome you to Kenya 
Birdfinder. This new online database 
is coordinated by Nature Kenya, the 
Ornithology Department of the 
National Museums of Kenya, the Royal 
Society for the Protection of Birds 
(RSPB, in UK) and BirdLife 
International. 

Kenya Birdfinder seeks to record 
observations of birds in the field as a 
source of information to help us to 
better understand birds and make a 
contribution to bird conservation. The 
database enables you to store and 
manage your own observations, extract 
reports and view, print or download 
maps and checklists of your choice. 







The site is still under construction. 
Soon, however, you can log on to 
www.worldbirds.org/kenya and 
register your personal details to gain 
access to all of the site's pages and 
range of tools. Explore different 
locations around Kenya and find out 
what birds have been seen and when 
and where they were recorded. As well 
as contributing your own observations, 
you will be able to view other people's 
records, which may influence your next 
birding trip. Use the checklists to keep 
track of your sightings. 

The records that you add to Kenya 

Birdfinder will help Nature Kenya to 

get a more comprehensive picture of 

what is happening with the country's 

birds. Simple bird 

lists can help to 

estimate abundance 

trends and document 

bird distributions. So 

wherever you go to 

record birds, your 

observations can now 

make a difference. 



landscape by 
Nani Croze 



3aKu 



Note from the Editor 

Welcome, readers, and apologies for the delay in bringing out this issue. 

Thanks to all contributors for their interesting articles. If your notes or 
articles do not appear in this issue, look for them in the next issue! 

Correction: The headline for Jasper Kirika's report on an albino Northern 
Black Flycatcher (in Kenya Birds 10) referred to Southern instead of 
Northern. Apologies to Kirika. Fleur Ng 'weno 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



NEWS & NOTES 

Red-throated 
Tit ... golfing? 

A cartoon on a previous Bird 
Committee T-shirt showed a 
Marabou Stork abandoning golf for 
bird watching. The Red-throated Tit, I 
think, thought otherwise - it seems 
quite comfortable at the Great Rift 
Valley Lodge & Golf Resort. 

The Red-throated Tit is an East 
African endemic. According to 
Zimmerman et al it is found in southern 
Kenya to northern Tanzania between 
1000m and 1600m altitude. The Great 
Rift Valley Lodge & Golf Resort is on 
the southern slopes of Eburru Crater, 
on the northern side of Lake Naivasha, 
at almost 2300m a.s.l., Lat. 0° 40'S, 
Long. 36° 19'E, Atlas Square 62c. The 
1 8-hole golf course is about 6 years old, 
but the lodge is only about 3 years old. 
It is in the rain shadow, so the habitat 
is a combination of bushland, 
scrubland, grassland, rocks, cliff and 
the exotic greens. Whistling acacia and 
leleshwa trees and lemon grass and red 
oats grass dominate the landscape. 

The Red-throated Tit usually feeds 
in the acacias with its acrobatic feeding 
style, opening galls and taking cocktail 
ant larvae. Four records of breeding 
have been recorded on nest cards so 
far, all of them completely different. 
Each time the tits used the nests of 
other birds: Red-rumped Swallows, 
Nubian Woodpeckers, Rufous 
Sparrows and Chestnut Sparrows. The 
tits were observed carrying soft red 
cedar bark and bird feathers. 

I have read that the Red-throated Tit 




Red-throated 
Tit by Andrew 
Kamiti 



is associated with yellow-barked 
acacias, and that the Absyssinian 
Scimitarbill accompanies the tit on its 
daily forage, taking advantage of the 
galls it opens. However, in ten years' 
stay along the lake shore, where the 
yellow-barked acacia is the dominant 
tree, I have not come across the tit. 
Absyssinian Scimitarbills are very rare 
on this side of the lake, they are much 
more common in Hell's Gate National 
Park, where I have not seen any Red- 
throated Tits. 

Well, I'm calling upon all 
naturalists, birders, conservationists, 
etc. in Naivasha and its environs to 
contribute on this issue, I know we 
have many and very reliable ones. We 
might be harbouring another endemic 
and unique species, along with the 
Grey-crested Helmet-shrike. 

Another interesting record to look 
out for is the mysterious Northern 
Puffback (Dryoscopus gambensis 
malzacii) which is mainly found north 
of the equator, but has been recorded 
breeding in Loldia Ranch side by side 
with Black-backed Puffback despite 
tough competition. 

James Wainaina Gathitu 
<birds_naturalist@yahoo.com> 

Reference: Zimmerman, D.A., Turner, D.A., 
Pearson, D.J. 1996. Birds of Kenya and 
Northern Tanzania. A. & C. Black, London 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



Unravelling Lesser 
Flamingo Mysteries 

Dr Brooks Childress, Email: <Brooks.Childress@wwt.org. uk> 

Department of Biology, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK, 
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge GL2 7BT, UK (address for 
correspondence) and Ornithology Department, National Museums of 
Kenya, PO Box 40658, GPO 00100, Nairobi, Kenya 



Lesser Flamingos are mysterious 
birds. There are huge numbers 
of them, perhaps as many as 
four million, and yet their continued 
existence is considered threatened 
because they have very few breeding 
sites. They gather in great numbers on 
the alkaline lakes of the Rift Valley, 
creating some of the most magnificent 
wildlife spectacles in the world, and yet 
there are many things we still don't 
know about them. 




For example, despite scientists' best 
efforts over many years to count the 
total number of Lesser Flamingos we 
still don't have a good estimate of how 
many there are. Until the early 1970s, 
it was thought that there were 
approximately four million in total, 
98% of which lived on the alkaline 
lakes of the Rift Valley in East Africa. 

The rest lived in small isolated 
populations in southern Africa (50,000 
in Namibia/Botswana), western Africa 
(6,000 in Mauritania/Senegal) and on 
the India-Pakistan border (estimated to 
be 10s of thousands). 

Then, in 1971, approximately one 
million Lesser Flamingos were counted 
breeding at Etosha Pan in Namibia, and 
in 1974, approximately 1.7 million of 
them were counted breeding at Sua Pan 
in Botswana. Where did all of these 
Lesser Flamingos come from? 

Simultaneous declines in the 
numbers of Lesser Flamingos counted 
in East Africa suggest that perhaps the 
large breeding populations in southern 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



Africa came from there. However, 
although Lesser Flamingos are very 
nomadic, flying frequently between 
lakes, they are thought to make these 
flights mainly at night to avoid the 
various species of eagles that are their 
main avian predators. With a flight 
speed of only 60 km/hr, they probably 
couldn't cover more than 600 km in a 
night before having to stop over 
somewhere. 

Since there are no logical stopover 
places on the 2,200 km journey from 
East Africa to southern Africa, it has 
seemed unlikely to many scientists that 
the large numbers of Lesser Flamingos 
counted breeding in southern Africa 
came from East Africa. Although there 
was some speculation that they may 
have taken a coastal route through 
Mozambique, there has been no 
evidence to support such a migration 
has ever taken place. So, perhaps there 
are more Lesser Flamingos in southern 
Africa than we thought, or there is a 
migration route we haven't discovered. 

A coordinated census of Lesser 
Flamingos in East African countries in 

2002 was only able to come up with 
approximately 2.5 million birds. Then, 
in October 2003, scientists counted 
over one million of them breeding in 
the Great Rann of Kachchh in Gujarat 
State, India, on the border with 
Pakistan. Previously it had been 
thought there were only tens of 
thousands there. Are there more Lesser 
Flamingos in India/Pakistan than we 
thought, or were these birds normally 
resident in East Africa? 

We simply don't know yet, but in 

2003 we discovered evidence that at 
least one Lesser Flamingo had 
migrated over 6,000 km. This flight 

6 November 2004 



links two populations that were 
previously thought to have no 
connection, and we have a satellite 
tracking study underway that we hope 
will shed further light on this mystery. 

In 1962, the Kenyan ornithologist 
Leslie Brown, along with Alan Root, 
the wildlife cinematographer, found 
that Lesser Flamingos were breeding 
on Lake Magadi, an unusual event. 
Brown, Root, and several other 
members of the East Africa Natural 
History Society rounded up and ringed 
8,000 juvenile Lesser Flamingos on 
Lake Magadi. The rings were obtained 
from the British Museum and the 
records now reside with the British 
Trust for Ornithology in England. 

In a recent review of the recovery 
records from this ringing effort, we 
discovered that one of the Lesser 
Flamingos ringed by the Brown-Root 
group on 30 October 1962 was 
recovered on 28 September 1997 near 
Laayoune, Western Sahara. It was 
probably found along the shore of 
"Flamingo Lake", a small little-known 
and officially unnamed lake amongst 
the sand dunes near Laayoune that 
frequently holds large numbers of 
flamingos. 

The direct distance between Lake 
Magadi in Kenya and Laayoune is 
reported to be 6,197 kilometres. How 
or when this Lesser Flamingo got from 
one to the other is completely 
unknown. However, we believe this is 
the first record of an interchange 
between the East African and western 
African populations. 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



Tracking flamingos 
with rings and 
satellites 

Under the auspices of the Department 
of Ornithology, National Museums of 
Kenya, and the County Councils of 
Baringo and Koibatek, with support 
from the Earthwatch Institute, 
University of Leicester, The Wildfowl 
& Wetlands Trust, Max Planck 
Research Centre for Ornithology, 
Darwin Institute, Vodafone and others, 
we are tracking the movements of 
seven individual Lesser Flamingos 
with satellite transmitters. 

The primary aim of this study is to 
understand and describe the complex 
movement patterns of the Lesser 
Flamingos, in support of the 
development of a future international 



flyway protection plan for them in 
eastern and southern Africa. We also 
hope to discover whether there are 
seasonal patterns to what previously 
has looked like random nomadic 
behaviour, and to be able to show 
whether or not there is genetic 
interchange between the separate 
populations in Africa and India, along 
with the routes taken, stopover places 
and some indication of the frequency. 

Important findings already have 
been made in the first two years of this 
study, including the fact that one of the 
birds being followed made 130 
interlake flights totalling some 12,500 
km! 

In a scientific paper published in 
March 2004 in Ostrich, Journal of 
African Ornithology, we describe the 
key site network used by Lesser 
Flamingos in East Africa, the 




Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



movements of the birds among the sites 
and the length of time spent at each. 
We also report for the first time on the 
importance of a large (600+ sq. km.) 
ephemeral wetland lake in central 
Tanzania. Prior to this study, none of 
these findings were known. 

We also report the inconsistent 
conservation status of these important 
sites, and will be advocating greater 
protection for the unprotected sites 
through international collaboration. 
You can learn more about this study 
and follow the bi-weekly movement 
updates by logging onto: 
www.wwt.org.uk/flamingo. 

In addition to the satellite tracking 
study, we are conducting two other 
studies designed to help us understand 
the movements of the Lesser 
Flamingos and the genetic 
relationships among the various 
populations. Both studies are part of the 
Earthwatch Institute's "Lakes of the 
Rift Valley" research programme, run 
by Dr. David Harper, Senior Lecturer, 
Department of Biology, University of 
Leicester (UK). 

The first study is an on-going 
ringing programme at Lake Bogoria. 
It is also being conducted under the 
auspices of the Department of 
Ornithology, National Museums of 
Kenya, and the County Councils of 
Baringo and Koibatek, with support 
from Earthwatch Institute, University 
of Leicester and The Wildfowl & 



Wetlands Trust. To-date we have ringed 
260 Lesser Flamingos. 

Each flamingo has a Ringing 
Scheme of Eastern Africa metal ring 
placed on its right tibia and an orange 
plastic ring with black letter 
combinations placed on its left tibia for 
easy identification using binoculars or 
a telescope. Although none of these 
ringed birds has been reported from 
other lakes, several have been re- 
sighted at Lake Bogoria several months 
after having been ringed. 

Ringing is important not only in 
documenting movements, but also in 
helping determine how long Lesser 
Flamingos live in the wild, another 
mystery. For example, we recently 
reviewed the recovery records from the 
Brown-Root ringing effort in 1962. We 
discovered that the carcass of one of 
the Lesser Flamingos ringed on 30 
October 1962 was recovered recently 
deceased at Lake Bogoria on 13 July 
2003 by Robert Ndetei of the Kenya 
Wildlife Service and John Githaiga of 
the Department of Zoology, University 
of Nairobi. When found, the bird was 
40.7 years old, making it the oldest 
wild Lesser Flamingo known. 

The second study, just getting 
underway, involves the comparison of 
genetic markers in the DNA from the 
different African and Indian Lesser 
Flamingo populations to help us 
determine how closely these 
populations are related. 



8 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



Tropical and 
Temperate Birds 

What is the difference 
in raising young? 



Hans-Christian Schaefer, George Were Eshiamwata, 

Fred Munyekenye Barasa, Katrin Bohning-Gaese 

Institut fur Zoologie, Abt. Okologie, Johannes Gutenberg-Universitat 

Mainz, D-55099 Mainz, Germany; and 

National Museums of Kenya, Department of Ornithology, Nairobi 

e-mail: <hcschaef@uni-mainz.de> 

art by Andrew Kamiti 



For decades, scientists have been 
trying to figure out why 
temperate and tropical bird 
species are so different. The complex 
life-history traits are of special interest, 
because this is where some very 
conspicuous differences can be found: 
Tropical birds are generally believed 
to have smaller clutches of eggs, longer 
developmental periods, higher nest 
predation rates, lower annual fecundity 
and longer post-fledging care than 
temperate ones. However, the 
identification of factors that cause these 
differences is often hampered by our 
insufficient knowledge about tropical 
species. 

Our approach was to study 
differences in life-history traits within 

Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



the warblers of the genera Sylvia and 
Parisoma. Recent studies of DNA- 
sequences in the family of the Old 
World Warblers, the Sylviidae, had 
resulted in some taxonomic changes. 

The studies demonstrated that the 
family Sylviidae should include the 
Timaliinea as a subfamily. (The 
Timallinea, also written Timaliidae, 
currently includes the babblers, 
chatterers and illadopses.) The genus 
Sylvia should be included in this 
subfamily. On the other hand, leaf- 
warblers (Phylloscopus) such as 
Willow Warbler, and reed warblers 
(e.g. Acrocephalus, Hippolais) and 
other genera belong to a separate 
subfamily, Acrocephalinae. 

November 2004 9 






Blackcap 




Further, the molecular studies 
showed that the African genera 
Pseudonlcippe (African Hill Babbler) 
and Parisoma (the parisomas) are 
derived from Sylvia ancestors. 

Therefore, Pseudoalcippe and 
Parisoma were subsumed within 
Sylvia, which today comprises 28 
species. Among them are European 
birds such as Blackcap (S. atricapilla), 
Whitethroat (S. communis), and 
Garden Warbler (S. borin), and also the 
Brown Parisoma (now Sylvia lugens) 
and the Banded Parisoma (now Sylvia 
boehmi) from Kenya. 

{Editor's note: DNA sequencing 
and other studies are changing some of 
our concepts of bird taxonomy. 
However, Kenya Birds will continue to 
use the names and families listed in the 
Check-list of the Birds of Kenya, third 
edition, published by the East Africa 
Natural History Society in 1996. When 
the list is revised, the new findings will 
be taken into consideration.) 

The genus Sylvia has a high number 
of species, and among them are 
temperate resident species, tropical 
resident species and long-distance 
migrants, which experience both 
environments. These characteristics 



make Sylvia a good model system for 
the investigation of differences in life- 
history traits between temperate and 
tropical birds. However, while many of 
the temperate and migrating species in 
Europe have been studied closely, 
information on the tropical species is 
still sketchy. 

The aim of our project was to get a 
close insight into the breeding biology 
of the two tropical warblers, the Brown 
Parisoma (now S. lugens) and Banded 
Parisoma (now S. boehmi). In April/ 
May 2000, the project was initiated and 
suitable study sites located. 

Parisoma populations of sufficient 
size for a study were found on 
Madrugada Farm, close to Nakuru, for 
S. lugens and at Olorgesailie 
Prehistoric Site for S. boehmi. 

Before observations began, and in 
several follow-up ringing sessions, 
Parisomas at both sites were lured into 
mist-nets by playing tapes of their 
songs. On capture, the birds were 
measured and colour-banded (coloured 
plastic rings were placed on the birds' 
legs, in different combinations). That 
way, we could identify each individual, 
and thus track and monitor thirteen 
breeding pairs in both species. This was 



10 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



done for two breeding seasons, from 
October 2000 to August 2002. 

During the breeding season, each 
pair was observed daily for 30 minutes, 
six days a week. In the non-breeding 
season, pairs were only visited every 
second week. In the course of the study, 
we spent more than 3000 hours with 
each species and we collected four 
folders filled with datasheets about 
habitats, nests, egg clutches, 
development, predation, behaviour, 
survival and many other features of the 
breeding biology of the two Parisomas. 

On the technical side, we used a 
12V CCD-mini-finger-camera (55 x 18 
mm), connected to a portable mini -TV. 
The camera was lifted at the tip of a 
7m bamboo pole to photograph the 
nests of the Brown Parisoma. This 
allowed us to determine clutch sizes of 
S. lugens, although the nests were often 
inaccessible in the dense thorn thickets 
high in the canopies of Acacia 
abyssinica trees. 

For the analysis of the data, Fred 
Barasa and George Eshiamwata visited 



the Department of Ecology at the 
University of Mainz, Germany, in 
September/October 2002. We found 
that the two Kenyan Parisomas are 
perfectly typical tropical birds, because 
compared to their temperate 
congenerics they show all the features 
expected. 

Those are, for example, smaller 
clutches (almost four clutches per year 
with two eggs each) and long 
incubation and nestling periods (each 
lasting for two weeks or longer). Nest 
predation rates were high. Only one out 
of three nests of the Brown Parisoma 
yielded fledglings, and only one out of 
five nests in the Banded Parisoma. 
Among the most dangerous predators 
of Banded Parisoma nests were 
cocktail ants. These tree-living ants 
invaded several nests and left only 
skeletons of the nestlings. 

For comparison, Sylvia species in 
Central Europe usually lay one or two 
clutches of four to five eggs per year. 
Incubation and nestling stage last 10 
to 13 days each, and approximately one 
out of every two nests is successful. 




Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



Brown Parisoma 
November 2004 11 



Once fledged, the young Kenyan 
Sylvias had a high chance to survive. 
This was facilitated by the parents, who 
made great efforts to help the fledglings 
through the first weeks of their life. The 
Banded Parisoma fed its offspring for 
more than two months, the Brown 
Parisoma for more than one month, and 
the young birds stayed in their parents' 
territory for weeks even after feeding 
had stopped. In contrast, offspring of 
European Sylvia species receive 
considerably less care. They are fed for 
only two to three weeks before they 
disperse. 

Altogether, the study of the 
breeding biology of the two tropical 
warblers was a very interesting and 
rewarding task, yielding many exciting 
results and insights into the life-history 
of tropical birds and the conditions 
under which they breed. The 
comparison of the Parisomas to their 
temperate relatives might enable a 
better understanding of the factors 
which cause the differences. 

The study successfully brought 
together not only tropical and 
temperate birds, but also African and 
European scientists. During several 
months of joint fieldwork and data 



analysis, in Kenya and in Germany, we 
had a great opportunity to get to know 
a new culture and to form friendships. 

Cooperation between the 
Department of Ornithology at the 
National Museums of Kenya and the 
Department of Ecology at the 
University of Mainz was exemplary 
and we thank Leon Bennun and Alfred 
Owino as well as many others at both 
departments for their support. This 
study would never have been 
successful without the help of the 
people at our study sites. We are 
grateful to the owner of Madrugada 
Farm: Mr. Peter Barclay, his family and 
staff for hosting and allowing us to 
conduct our research on their beautiful 
premises. We thank Gideon Keesi, 
Simon Mondoi, and the entire staff of 
NMK's Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site, 
for their hospitality and support. 

The results of our study have since 
been published as: 

Schaefer, Hans-Christian, Eshiamwata, 
George W., Munyekenye, Fred B. & 
Bohning-Gaese, Katrin (2004). Life- 
history of two African Sylvia warblers: 
low annual fecundity and long post- 
fledging care. Ibis 146 (3), 427-437. 




Banded 
Parisoma 



12 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 




*£ ^ *' 




Red-billed 



Firefinches Share 
Our Bedroom 

Lorraine Chittock and John Dawson 

<cats@camels.com> & <jdawson @ /connect. co.ke> 



We are lying in bed in the early 
morning, hardly daring to 
speak or move. Suddenly a 
Red-billed Firefinch darts into our 
bedroom via the bathroom window and 
flies up to the old weaver's nest 
suspended above us. The nest rocks 
contentedly as the chirping young 
consume their first meal of the day . . . 

To discover how this strange 
situation came about, we must go back 
several months. Driving back from 
Tanzania, Lorraine had stopped by the 
roadside to inspect an acacia tree 
dripping with Grey-capped Social 
Weavers' nests. One lay at her feet, still 
attached to the branchlet that had not 
quite been strong enough to support the 
neat ball-shaped homage to the 
weaver's skill. She brought it back to 
Nairobi and attached it, twig and all, 
to a wooden beam across our bedroom 
ceiling, forming an eye-catching 
ornithological display alongside the 
feathers she had also found. 

Then, just before Christmas 2000, 
we noticed that two Red-billed 
Firefinches were regularly getting 
'stuck' in the bedroom, having entered 

Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



through the open windows of the 
adjoining bathroom. We dutifully 
opened the louvred windows and let 
them out. When they then started to 
turn up with feathers, we finally 
understood. Our weaver's nest had 
survived the inspection procedure, and 
had been selected as the firefinches' 
conjugal home! 

Now they got busy - in through the 
bathroom window with a small feather 
in their beak, a brief pause on top of 
the wardrobe, the short flight to the nest 
to tuck the feather in place, and back 
out through the bathroom window. 
Lorraine left them a container of downy 
feathers discarded by our three ducks, 
but these proud firefinches continued 
to bring their own. 

Round about Christmas Day this 
busy activity came to a halt and the pair 
settled into continuous habitation of 
their home, swapping positions every 
hour or so. We presumed they were 
incubating eggs. The female took up 
residence for the night, and they would 
trade places at about seven o'clock 
each morning as we lay in bed, scarcely 
daring to breathe, waiting for the event 



November 2004 



13 



that would start our day as well as 
theirs. The male arrived at the 
bathroom window-sill and indicated 
his presence with a few sharp cheeps, 
to which the female would respond. 
With a sudden flurry he would flit into 
the bedroom, wings beating noisily as 
he hovered, almost hummingbird-like, 
until he decided it was safe to land on 
the nest. She was out, and he was in, 
all in a flash. 

Are they sharing our space or are 
we sharing theirs?! It definitely feels 
like the latter as we creep around, using 
'their' rooms as little as possible. The 
bedroom door is left a little ajar, the 
gap just sufficient to peek through in 
search of reassuring evidence of 
daytime activity. We steal to bed by 
candlelight, whispering in hushed tones 
lest we disturb our lodgers. 

Thursday 4 th January: A problem 
has occurred to us. The nest now 
appears very precarious, attached by a 
few strands of grass to a dry and friable 
twig that has already failed once to hold 
it in position. It seems to rock crazily 
as the parents change places, and the 
imminent addition of several hungry 
chicks could be the last straw, as it 
were. We gingerly tie cotton around the 
nest to fasten it to the twig, then 
construct a cotton 'cradle' securing it 
to the beam. Despite our care the 
female shoots out during the process, 
and an anxious hour passes with no 
sign of her returning. Then, through the 
chink in the door, we see her reappear 
- but as she goes into the nest, the male 
vacates it! Obviously, we missed his 
earlier rescue mission. 

By the 9 th of January we feel that 
the parents have been incubating the 
eggs for too long and there's no sign 



14 



November 2004 



yet of them hatching. We worry that 
something has gone wrong. In order to 
investigate further, Lorraine transforms 
the area inside the mosquito net over 
our bed into her office, watching the 
firefinches daily while she works on 
her computer on top of the mattress/ 
desk. She is also trying to fix up some 
hides to take photos, and one of our 
older sheets ends up in front of the 
wardrobe door with a hole in it. Nature 
has its share of disturbances to add to 
ours - last night there was a fearsome 
storm, great zaps of lightning 
accompanied by thunder crashing 
directly overhead. Our firefinches have 
made a wise choice. It is amazing to 
think of such tiny birds nesting outside 
in this torrential downpour, thunder and 
lightning roaring around them. 

12 th January: Finally, the chicks 
have hatched! Exactly when we are not 
certain, but this is the first day we have 
heard their faint cheeps from inside the 
nest. Nor do we know how many there 
are. But we do feel like proud parents, 
full of vicarious happiness. 

For the real parents, life takes on a 
very different rhythm as feeding 
replaces incubation. They take turns to 
feed the chicks, at intervals of about 
one hour - not as often as we expected. 
Nor do they spend any time in the nest, 
except for the minute or two when they 
are feeding. Even during the night, the 
chicks are left alone in the nest. The 
parents are still coming and going via 
the bathroom windows - it is 
interesting to note that the male tends 
to leave by one window, the female by 
the other! 

Here is the timetable of parental 
visits (sex not recorded) on 15 th 
January, from nine o'clock in the 

Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



morning until mid- afternoon: 
15 th January: Feeding Visits to Nest 
9:00 a.m. 12:42 p.m. 

9:55 a.m. 1:43 p.m. 

10:50 a.m. 2:30 p.m. 

11:37 a.m. 3:35 p.m. 

As the chicks grow in size and 
become more demanding, the pace of 
feeding accelerates. Even by the next 
day - 16 th January - the interval 
between feeding visits has shortened 
to about 45 minutes. In the following 
table, visits between mid-morning and 
early evening are listed. The sex of the 
visiting parent is noted, along with the 
length of time at the nest (when 
recorded). Many of these observations 
are made with Lorraine sitting 
concealed beneath the mosquito net in 
the bedroom, while John observes from 
the garden outside. 

16 th January: Feeding Visits to Nest 

Time Feeding bird time at nest 

10.27 a.m. Female 2 min 45 sec 

11.30 a.m. Male 

12.17 p.m. Female 

12.59 p.m. Male 1 min 15 sec 

1.38 p.m. Female 1 min 50 sec 

2.22 p.m. Male 1 min 12 sec 

3.17 p.m. Female 1 min 17 sec 

4.03 p.m. Male 

4.37 p.m. Female 

5.13 p.m. Male 

5.40 p.m. Female 

The final visit to the nest tended to 
occur at about 6.30 p.m. 

One week after the first faint cheeps 
were heard, the chicks are managing 
to rock the nest without parental 
assistance. Although their chirps are 
still loudest during feeding visits, they 
are becoming increasingly vocal at 
other times. All in all the chicks are 



definitely getting bigger and noisier, 
and the level of parental activity is 
increasing in response. Instead of the 
male and female taking turns with the 
feeding, they are spending more time 
together in the bedroom in the vicinity 
of the nest. Here is the programme for 
the morning of 20 th January: 
20 th January: Activity Around Nest 
7.05 a.m. First meal of the day - the 
male goes in and out. 
7.40 a.m. Female in and out 
8.18 a.m. Female lands on sill, then 
goes off again - perhaps realising it 
isn't her turn! 

8.27 a.m. Male and female turn up 
together. They both make several visits 
in and out, some together, some apart, 
as well as spending time in the 
branches outside the window. They are 
also very active in the bedroom, 
perching on the wardrobe, on the bed, 
on the bookcase, even on Lorraine's 
camera! They make several visits to 
and from the nest in the meantime. 
Both parents are vocal, the male in 
particular uttering a sharp two-note 
peep. They finally both leave at 8.43. 

9.05 a.m. They spend about ten 
minutes in the branches outside the 
bathroom window, but don't go in. At 
one stage the male seems to be 
investigating the rather handier 
entrance through the bedroom window. 

9.18 a.m. The male makes three or four 
trips to the nest. 

9:20 a.m. The male spends about five 
minutes in restless activity, calling 
from various vantage points around the 
room, spending up to one and a half 
minutes in the nest, leaving and 
returning through the bathroom 
window, before finally leaving at 9.25. 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



15 



9:28 a.m. The female indulges in very 
similar activity. She makes single loud 
cheeps from various perches, including 
the bookcase and the bathroom 
window. She leaves at 9.42, and flies 
down to our garden pond for a wash. 

9.55 a.m. Over the next 10 minutes 
both parents engage in similar activity: 
entering and leaving, visiting the nest, 
calling from various perches around the 
bedroom. At one stage the male enters 
and perches on the wardrobe door and 
emits a harsh cheep, to which the 
chicks respond. He enters the nest for 
about two minutes before flying back 
to perch on the wardrobe for a short 
time before leaving. 

In view of the following day's 
events, we wonder if any of this 
constant noisy parental activity serves 
to orient the chicks, giving them a sense 
of the geography of the area in 
preparation for their first actual 
experience of it. 

Sunday 21 st January: It's been a 
month since we first realised that our 
bedroom was becoming home to a pair 
of Red-billed Firefinches, and now the 
concluding moments of the drama 
unfold so fast! In the morning there is 
quite frenzied activity, both male and 
female coming and going, feeding the 
young and flitting noisily around the 
room. The male, especially, is visiting 
several perches, making the same 
distinctive call he was making 
yesterday - a sharp two-note peep, with 
the second note higher than the first. 
We wondered yesterday if this was 
orienting activity, now it seems more 
like a summons to action! 

At about 9.30 a.m., the male calls 
with increased agitation, and makes 



several flights across to the nest. 
Suddenly, one of the young appears! It 
cannot steer so well yet, and a bedroom 
is not exactly the best place to learn 
how to fly, so it bounces off a few walls 
before coming to rest, exhausted, on a 
low bookcase. The parents flutter 
around in a concerned manner, and 
eventually it contrives to escape 
through the louvres of the bedroom 
window. 

Then chaos reigns as more 
fledglings appear from the nest in 
urgent need of flying lessons - there 
are probably three more, but it feels like 
a multitude as they career around the 
room, getting themselves stuck in 
impossible corners. So much for the 
parents' orientation programme, and so 
much for our plans to carefully count 
the offspring! We are concerned, 
though, that they will get stuck. 
Lorraine rescues one that has fallen 
down a gap between the wardrobe and 
bookcase. Somehow, the parents 
manage to shepherd their youngsters 
out through the bathroom window. 

They soon make their way across 
to the safety of a nearby hedge, and 
there seems to be firefinches 
everywhere, as though several more 
have turned up to see what is going on. 
To our amazement, another visitor 
suddenly appears on the scene - a 
single Village Indigobird, a species 
which parisitises the Red-billed 
Firefinch. Perhaps it was wondering if 
it was parent to any of these offspring! 
We are fairly sure, however, that the 
entire brood are the genuine article. 

But the matter did not end there. 
Leaving the airborne chicks safely 
concealed inside the hedge, the parents 
head back to the bedroom. Another 



16 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



Nani Croze 




chick has appeared from the nest, and 
another! These are the runt end of the 
litter, and they have even more trouble 
than their siblings negotiating the 
numerous obstacles that obstruct their 
maiden flight. They crash into walls 
and hang on desperately to picture 
frames and curtains before yet another 
chick drops dangerously down behind 
the wardrobe. Boxes and junk are 
wrestled out of the way and a dust- 
covered chick emerges to be carried to 
the open window by Lorraine. A little 
later the male flies into the bedroom 
again, as if to check that there are no 
more. The whole flurry of activity has 
lasted maybe two hours. 

Throughout the afternoon the 
parents ferry food to their five or six 
youngsters hidden deep in the hedge, 
without so much as a backward glance 
to the nest that was their home. It's true 
what they say about the small things 
in life making the difference. 
Firefinches are very small. And they 
made a huge difference. In one of many 
moments of sentimentality, Lorraine 
hopes they'll come back to spend one 
last night in the nest, though given the 
obstacles in the room, we don't think 
they should. And they don't. So no little 
cheeps the next morning. But in the 
course of the next week, both the male 
and the female return to the bathroom 



window and chirp a few times just to 
make sure that no one has been left 
behind. 

A few weeks later, in preparation for 
our upcoming move to another house, 
we take down the nest and empty out 
the contents. There are a LOT of bird 
droppings, understandably when you 
think of so many birds in a confined 
space for so long. And the feathers ! No 
less than 112 downy feathers! Most are 
white feathers from our three ducks, so 
they did not have to travel far to find 
bedding material. Even so, at one 
feather per trip, that's a lot of trips to 
furnish a house. 

At our new home, we have hung the 
emptied nest just outside the bedroom 
window in the hope that a second 
family of firefinches will make use of 
it. Or perhaps another couple that has 
need of a love nest. A month later, it 
still remains empty. But Lorraine has 
opened up the doors of an atrium that 
hasn't been used in years, thinking it 
has tons of potential. The Red-billed 
Firefinches here seem to think so too, 
and a pair has started nesting in its 
thatched eaves. Lorraine placed the 1 12 
feathers from the last nest nearby, and 
this time the firefinches are taking 
advantage of the easy furnishings to 
line their nest. Once again, we'll be 
watching and waiting ! 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



17 



Nesting behaviour of 

Amani Sunbird in 

Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 



Joseph O OyugP b and Wellington KombeF 

a Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 

845 West Taylor Street, Chicago, 1160607, USA 

b National Museums of Kenya, Department of Ornithology, 

P.O. Box 40658, Nairobi 00100, Kenya 

c Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Station, P. O. Box 1 Gede, Kenya 

Address for correspondence: <joyugi1 @uic.edu> 



Introduction 

The Amani Sunbird is globally and 
regionally vulnerable 13 . This bird is an 
endemic resident in southeastern 
coastal Kenya — in Brachystegia 
woodland within the Arabuko-Sokoke 
Forest — and in and near the East 
Usambara mountains and Udzungwa 
scarp 4 in northeastern Tanzania. 

Survey data and sight records have 
been useful in determining the 
conservation status of the Amani 
Sunbird 1 - 25,6 . However, some 
information on the natural history of 
this bird is still missing. In this note, 
we give additional information on the 
nesting behaviour of the Amani 
Sunbird (see also 4 ). 

We spent four months at the 
beginning of 2002 conducting research 
on sunbird foraging activities within 
the Brachystegia woodland of the 
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Coast 
Province. During this period, we 
followed and observed the feeding 



behavior of Amani Sunbirds and other 
sunbirds species in the forest. We were 
fortunate to document the nesting 
behavior of a pair of Amani Sunbirds. 

Our observations were made 
between March 14 and April 9, 2002, 
and the site was located at 03° 19' 17" 
S and 039°55'22" E. For two weeks 
following April 9, we did not see any 
activities at the nest and assumed the 
young had fledged. We climbed the tree 
and brought the nest down for detailed 
descriptions and pictures. The nest is 
deposited in the Ornithology 
Department of the National Museums 
of Kenya. 

Nest building 

Nest-building took about one week. 
We observed the female constructing 
the hanging nest, using lichens 
collected on the same tree or from 
nearby trees. During nest construction, 
the male would perch on a nearby 
branch, turning his head frequently 



18 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



(probably making vigilant 
observations) and sometimes making 
sharp calls. The pair would both leave 
the tree and return after few minutes, 
the female carrying lichens in her bill. 
This was repeated frequently until 
completion of the nest. 

The following week and a half 
passed with only one observation of the 
pair sitting on a branch next to the nest. 
From April 2 - April 9, both male and 
female were seen actively carrying 
food into the nest at regular intervals. 
They both left and returned together 
with food in the bill, and entered the 
nest in turn. We made no observation 
of incubation by either sex. 




Amani sunbird male by Andrew Kamiti 

Nest description 

The nest was hanging from the branch 
of a Brachystegia spiciformis tree, 15m 
from the ground. The area around the 
nest was crowded with lichens, making 
the nest difficult to see. 

The Amani Sunbirds constructed a 
round, compact nest of lichen, with a 
side entrance. Below the nest were 
trails of other hanging lichen, and the 
inside was neatly lined with pappus 



hairs. The nest weighed 7. g. The 
diameter of the "door" was 62.1mm 
(external) and 3 LI mm (internal). 
Maximum dorsal length (from the 
upper side of the nest door to the back 
of the nest) was 85.6mm, and 
maximum ventral length (from the 
lower side of the nest door to the back 
of the nest) measured 68.8 mm. 

Acknowledgements 

These observations were made during 
research that was supported by the 
Wildlife Conservation Society and 
Provost Research Award (University of 
Illinois at Chicago). 

References 

1 . Bennun, L and P. Njoroge. 
1999. Important Bird Areas 
in Kenya. Nature Kenya 
(EANHS), Nairobi, Kenya. 

2. Britton, PL., and H.A. 
Britton. 1978. Notes on 
Amani Sunbird, Anthreptes 
pallidigastra, including 
description of the nest and 
eggs. Scopus 2: 102-103. 

3. Collar, N. J., M.J.Crosby, 
and A.J. Stattersfield. 1994. 
Birds to watch 2, the world 
list of threatened birds. 
Birldlife International, 
Cambridge, UK. 

4. Fry, C. H., Keith, S. and Urban, E. K. 
(eds). 2000.The Birds of Africa Vol. VI. 
Academic Press. London. 

5. Oyugi, J., and L. Bennun. 1994. Using 
birds to monitor environmental change in 
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Unpublished 
report, Kenya Indigenous Forest 
Conservation Programme. 

6. Turner, DA. 1977. Status and distribution 
of East African endemic species. Scopus 1: 
2-11. 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11.1 



November 2004 



19 



Collared Pratincole 



Nesting in Amboseli N.P. 

Wanyoike Warn it? and Duan Bigg& 

1 PO Box 70898-00400, T. M boy a St. Nairobi <furaha@bigfoot.com> 

2 PO Box 106, Skukuza 1350, South Africa, <dbiggs@zoologyup.ac.za> 



T 



he Collared Pratincole, also 
called Red-winged or Common 
Pratincole, is a migratory 
species in the Glareolidae family. Its 
preferred habitat is largely sandbanks, 
floodplains, and alkaline flats. In 
Amboseli National Park, one can find 
pratincoles feeding in large flocks of 
scores to several hundreds in the dry 
swamps as well as over open waters, 
or on flat open ground. 

Pratincoles are as graceful as terns. 
Their principal diet consists of insects 
caught in the air over water or land. 
They may also chase prey with fast 
runs on the ground. Aerial feeding is 
aided by their graceful flight on long 
and pointed wings and a wide gape, like 
nightjars or swallows. This wide gape 
is presumably to facilitate the catching 
of insects on the wing, as described by 
del Hoyo et al in Handbook of the Birds 
of the World. Their flights is buoyant 
and free, with deep wing beats and 
periods of agile gliding, and this allows 
them to exploit flying insects. 

We were in Amboseli National Park 
for two weeks in December 2001, 
carrying out a survey on bird 
abundance and diversity in the five 
main habitat types, to compare with the 
one Jeff Walters did in the mid 1970's. 
Much of Amboseli's habitats have been 
changing structurally, especially the 



woodlands. The impact of elephants 
has been very influential and has 
"driven" woodlands towards the 
outside of the national park. This 
change in habitat structure has had 
impacts on bird communities that are 
yet to be understood. 

On 9 December, while driving along 
Lake Kioko, we saw a Collared 
Pratincole fly up from the middle of 
the road ahead of us. When we again 
flushed the bird the next day, we 
stopped and investigated. We could not 
believe it! The bird had two eggs on a 
nest scraped out in the middle of the 
road. The eggs' colour was mottled 
black, beige and light brown-grey, and 
measured about 2x3 centimetres. A few 
rocks of volcanic origin surrounded the 
nest and some grass of Sporobolus 
spicatus was the only vegetation 
around. The eggs were well 
camouflaged on the ground, were it not 
for the bird being in the middle of the 
road, no one would notice them. Such 
cryptic colouration is a survival 
strategy for many ground-nesting birds. 

We passed this route several more 
times, but could not find the nest again 
despite our efforts to locate it using a 
hand-held Geographic Positioning 
System reading. There were no broken 
eggshells to suggest either hatching or 
predation. We thought that the birds 



20 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



might carry away the eggshells after 
hatching to distract would-be predators 
from the newly hatched and helpless 
chicks. On the 15 th , we could not even 
see any adult pratincoles around. 

On the 20 th , a flock of adults were 
feeding and we searched for any young 
among them - and there it was, 
motionless and camouflaged on the 
ground. Calling very much like the 
adults, it could not fly, but walked very 
fast on the ground. According to the 
literature, the young birds leave the 
nest 2-3 days after hatching, are fed by 
both adults for up to 7 days and fledge 
in 25-30 days. The chick we were 
observing was likely to be about 10 
days old and still far from fledging. 

del Hoyo et al (1996) describe the 
Collared Pratincole population as 
declining, at least in Europe, through 
loss of suitable habitat. The dramatic 
change in water-management 
programmes in its African wintering 
quarters is also affecting its original 
habitat. Here, south of the Sahara, the 
Collared Pratincole is an Afrotropical 




migrant, and is also affected by habitat 
loss and human activities. The only 
disturbance in Amboseli, however, are 
the tourists and other vehicles 
frequenting the park when a pratincole 
'decides' to nest in the middle of the 
road, and perhaps natural predators. 

Other breeding records during this 
survey included: a juvenile Martial 
Eagle soaring over a Suaeda monoica 
bushland near the park headquarters, 
four records of young Kittlitz's Plover 
feeding in the alkaline grassland plains, 
Slender-tailed Nightjar with a young, 
a Hoopoe carrying food in the 01 Tukai 
Lodge compound, and a Two-banded 
Courser with a newly-hatched chick in 
the acacia savanna west of the park. 

Acknowledgements: The Amboseli 
Bird Survey was kindly supported by 
the African Conservation Centre 
through funding from the Wildlife 
Conservation Society. We are greatly 
indebted to Dr David Western of 
African Conservation Centre who 
organised this survey and the 
Department of Ornithology at the 
National Museums of Kenya for all 
assistance and inputs. We also owe 
thanks to the Kenya Wildlife Service 
for providing permission and free 
entrance to the park, and to David 
Maitumo for immense assistance 
during the two week survey. 

Literature Cited: 
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, 
A. & Sargatal, J. eds 
(1996). Handbook 
of the Birds of the 
World. Vol. 3. Lynx 
Edicions, Barcelona. 

Collared 

Pratincole by 

Andrew Kamiti 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



21 



Attractii 

to your home, office 



by Fleur Ng'weno <flt 
art by Nan/ Croze 



There are several ways to attract 
birds to your home, office or school 
compound: 

Water. Providing water is probably 
the simplest and most effective 
method. Seed-eating birds such as 
doves and firefinches need to drink. 
Many insect-eating birds, who get 




enough water from their food, 
enjoy a bath. 

• Use a dish, a plate, or a shallow 
basin. Birds feel safer if the water 
is shallow. If your birdbath is deep 
in the middle, add a stone or two 
for the birds to perch on. A 
birdbath can be made of pottery, 
stone or various other materials. 
If you use a metal karai, remember 
to put it in the shade. 

• Cats are important predators on 
birds, so keep your birdbath out 
of cat's reach. That means placing 
it high enough, or surrounding it 
with thorny branches - or having 
a dog to keep cats away. In town, 
the dish of water may fit on a 
windowsill or verandah. In a big 
compound, it can placed on a pile 
of rocks, on top of a large tin or 
barrel, or on a flat piece of wood 
nailed to a tree. You can also build 
a "table", high enough so cats 
cannot jump on it. 

• Pour fresh water in the dish 
every 1 or 2 days, and throw the 
old water out. This prevents 
mosquitoes breeding. 



22 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



g Birds 

t school compound 



\Wafricaonline. co. ke> 
d Andrew Kamiti 




• Be patient; the birds may take some 
time to discover the water. 

Food. Birds will also come for food. 
The menu you offer depends on your 
budget and imagination! Spread the 
food out on a wooden "bird-table" (out 
of cat's reach) or place it onto the 
branches of a tree. 

After eating mangoes or papayas, I 
hang the skins on the small tree near 
the birdbath, for fruit-eating birds. A 
friend keeps termites from rainy season 
swarms in the freezer to add protein 
value to the bird-table. Millet and 
sunflower seeds are available in many 
supermarkets and grocery stores in 
Kenya, and are popular with seed- 
eating birds. 

You can also provide scraps of 
bread, biscuit crumbs or other 
leftovers. However, these have the 
disadvantage of attracting rodents and 
insects. 

When you put out fresh food, throw 
away any food the birds have not eaten. 

Birdhouses. Birdhouses are used in 
many countries to encourage the 
breeding of particular hole-nesting 




birds. Does anyone have 
information about birdhouses 
designed for Kenyan birds? 

Plantings. The best method to 
attract birds, naturally, is to 
create an attractive habitat. 
Flowers for sunbirds, bushes to 
hide in, water to drink and bathe, 
fruiting trees, a steep bank for 
bee-eater nests, dead trees for 
woodpeckers, and so on. 

At Nature Kenya we are often 
asked what plants are most 
attractive to birds. We can 
suggest fig and olive trees for 
fruit-eaters, aloes for sunbirds, 
acacias for many small insect- 
feeding birds, and indigenous 
plants generally, but we do not 
have a comprehensive list. 

We would appreciate hearing 
from our readers for a future 
article on "Plants for Birds". 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



23 



REPORTS 



Ringing at Ngulia, 2003 



David Pearson 
<davidpearson@freeuk.com> 



Graeme Backhurst 
<graeme@wananchi. com> 



In 1 969 Ngulia Safari Lodge (Tsavo West) was discovered to be a unique site for Palaearctic 
bird migration. Large numbers of southward-bound night-migrating birds are attracted to 
the game-viewing lights under misty conditions in November, December and January. The 
Ngulia Ringing Group has operated there ever since. The birds are caught in fine-mesh 
nets, gently removed, measured and weighed, fitted with a light aluminium ring on one 
leg, and released to continue their migration. 

Ringing controls & recoveries The 2003 season 



The only movements involving 2003 
were all Marsh Warblers: 

31.07.01 Pavlov, Czech Republic 
24.1 1.03 Ngulia 

05.08.02 Skane, Sweden 

04.12.03 Ngulia 

24.07.03 Niedersachsen, Germany 
30. 11.03 Ngulia 

30.11.03 Ngulia 

18.01.04 Kalomo, Zambia 

21.12.03 Ngulia 

21.06.04 Chadiza, Zambia 

The season started slowly with little 
mist, but eventually produced an 
excellent catch of 19,160 Palaearctic 
migrants. The late November new 
moon coincided with the migration 
peak, and this main session of 22 nights 
from 16 November provided the bulk 
(83%) of the birds. Birds were caught 
close to the lodge at night, and in three 
lines of nets (c. 250 m) in the bush in 
front of the lodge by day. Playing tapes 
of bird songs to attract migrants was 
only used after 01 :30 when mist failed 
to develop. Night netting accounted for 
38% of the season's catch, a welcome 
increase over the previous two years 
(2002: 17%, 2001:24%). 



Fewer than 800 migrants were ringed 
the first week because of unsuitable 
weather. Then on November 23 rd , three 
night nets caught 379 migrants in 2h, 
followed by a morning bush catch of 
604. Almost two-thirds were Common 
Whitethroats; 43 Willow Warblers, five 
Upcher's and two Reed Warblers were 
noteworthy, but so too was an absence 
of River Warblers. A similar pattern 
next day produced some 500 birds, 
including all three species of wheatear. 
The weather changed to frequent and 
heavy downpours until 02:00 on the 
25 th , and four night nets, operating from 
01:00 whenever the showers eased, 
produced over 400 birds. The bush 
catch brought the day's total to 971. 

Peak period 

Classical Ngulia misty weather 
occurred on the night of 25/26th and 
1149 migrants were ringed, including 
516 Sprossers, 10 Eurasian Nightjars, 
a Eurasian Scops Owl and 15 Eurasian 
Rollers. With thousands of birds 
grounded at dawn it was not possible 
to open all the bush nets. 

Catching continued until mid- 
morning and resumed after lunch. Over 



24 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



1700 migrants from the bush had been 
ringed by dusk. 

This was a day of great variety, with 
a record 28 Palaearctic species ringed. 
Especially noteworthy were 1128 
Sprossers, 904 Marsh Warblers, 113 
Red-backed Shrikes, 69 Iranias, 47 
River Warblers (at last!), 33 Spotted 
Flycatchers, 26 Olive-tree Warblers 
and 17 Nightingales. 

High mist the next night (27th) 
provided a welcome rest with just 380 
birds ringed, including a record 28 
House" Martins, lured by tapes during 
the day. That evening, low cloud 
appeared by 22:00 and three nets up 
before midnight caught 300 birds 
within an hour! Light rain intervened, 
but afterwards catching continued 
steadily with two nets from 01 :30. The 
bush catch, without using the middle 
net line, brought the day's Palaearctic 
total to 3029, only the third time the 
"3-k" mark has been passed at Ngulia. 

Migrants remained in large numbers 
all day, and a singing Chiffchaff was 
only the second ever recorded (the first 
had been ringed in early December 
1988). Iranias (183), Olive-tree 
Warblers (40) and Willow Warblers 
(50) were caught in exceptional 
numbers, and 25 Olivaceous Warblers 
represented a new daily record. 

Third week 

The third week saw action on every day 
but the last. On 1 December, with the 
mist already down, birds began to 
appear from midnight with the setting 
moon. Notable among the 1672 birds 
ringed this day were 23 Olive-tree 
Warblers (exceptional for December), 
13 Basra Reed and two Great Reed 



Warblers. Over 1000 migrants were 
ringed on each of the next three days: 
there were over 400 Sprossers on 2nd, 
while 4th produced 11 more Basra 
Reeds and Barn Swallows appeared in 
numbers. The 5th was quieter but 
nevertheless included an Asian Lesser 
Cuckoo. 

Final session 

From 20 to 30 December four nights 
(21st-24th) of mist and intermittent 
showers allowed large catches, 
totalling nearly 3000 ringed. Marsh 
Warblers and Whitethroats 
predominated but there were many 
Iranias (134 on 23rd), Willow Warblers 
(37 on 23rd), River Warblers and 
Sprossers too, while variety was 
provided by several Barred, Garden 
and Basra Reed Warblers, 
Nightingales, Red-tailed Shrikes, a few 
more Olivaceous, Upcher's and Sedge 
Warblers and two Great Reeds. 

Good year for variety 

The overall catch this year was 
pleasantly varied; Marsh Warbler was 
less dominant and the Whitethroat 
catch was the highest since 1995. Totals 
for Willow Warbler, Irania, Red-backed 
Shrike, Olive-tree and Olivaceous 
Warbler were high, and the 53 House 
Martins ringed is a new annual record. 
There were no species additions to the 
Palaearctic ringing list but Red- 
throated Pipit (20 November) and 
Wryneck (1 December) were ringed for 
only the second time. However, two 
new subspecies were caught: an 
Olivaceous Warbler of the nominate 
Nile Valley race (24 November) and a 
Red-tailed Shrike of the Chinese race 
arenarius (1 December). 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



25 



Afrotropical species 

Although only 369 individuals of 65 
species were ringed, four species were 
not only new for the ringing list but also 
new for Ngulia! Pride of place goes to 
the Mangrove Kingfisher caught at 
dawn on 1 December — probably the 
first for Tsavo West. Tambourine Dove, 
Ring-necked Dove and Grey-headed 
Silverbill were also new. African 
nightjar numbers were good (61 of four 
species) but only 13 Harlequin Quail 
were ringed. 



Acknowledgements 

We thank KWS for allowing us to ring 
birds in Tsavo. Sarah Tomno and staff 
have our thanks for their friendship and 
superb hospitality. The Wetland Trust, 
Nairobi RG and Nature Kenya 
provided much appreciated financial 
support. The Swedish Ringing Office 
allowed us to use their rings (14th year) 
and also provided their normal efficient 
level of support. 



SHORT NOTES 

Helmet-shrike "Gunships" at Galla Camp 



While visiting Galla Camp in Tsavo 
West, we rescued a tortoise stuck in 
the mud of a dried up seasonal water 
hole below the Camp, at the 
northwest end of Kivuko Hill ( Lat. 
3° 47' S Lon. 38° 52' E) on Sunday 
20 th April 2003. Having released the 
tortoise into the bush we had just 
reached our car when a large adult 
Brown Snake Eagle flew down and 
perched on a nearby dead tree. 

No sooner had the eagle taken up 
its observation of the surrounding 
area than it came under sustained 
attack from a number of different 
species of birds, including Fischer's 
Starlings and Common Drongos. 
First the small ones began mobbing 
it, then the heavy artillery arrived. 
About 10 White-crested Helmet- 
shrikes flew in, perched on another 
dead branch and began their assault 
on the hapless eagle. 

Their attack method was just like 
the television pictures of helicopter 



gunships during the Iraq conflict or 
the aptly named Harrier jump-jets in 
the Falklands War. They flew off 
their perch and lined themselves up 
behind the eagle and swooped down 
on the bird. Half a metre from its 
head they momentarily stalled their 
dive (to lock their radar on to the 
target no doubt!), and then continued 
crashing into the eagle's head, 
ruffling its head feathers, and flying 
away back to their perch (to re- 
arm?). 

A few seconds later the next 
helmet-shrike started its bombing 
run and repeated the attack in the 
same manner. This continued for 
about 10 minutes until the eagle flew 
off to the top of a tree further away, 
but this did not stop the attacks as 
we were able to see other birds 
mobbing it again. 

Philip & Ros Heckle 

<hechle @ wananchi. com> 

Patrick & Karen Plumbe 

<patrick.plumbe @ skfkenya. com> 



26 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



REPORTS 



News from the 
Important Bird Areas 



Nature Kenya, together with the 
National Museums of Kenya 
and other partners, identified 
60 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in 
Kenya. These sites are important for 
bird conservation, but by their very 
nature, also protect other living things 
- the biodiversity on which human 
survival depends. 

Many IBAs are already protected 
areas: for example; Arabuko-Sokoke 
Forest, which shelters six globally 
threatened bird species; or Lake 
Nakuru with vast numbers of flamingos 
and other waterbirds. Other Important 
Bird Areas, such as the densely 
populated valleys where the Kenya 
endemic Hinde's Babbler lives, are still 
unprotected. More information on 
IBAs can be found in the book 
Important Bird Areas in Kenya, by 
Leon Bennun and Peter Njoroge, 
available at Nature Kenya. 

Monitoring IBAs 

In the past year, a system of monitoring 
Important Bird Areas has been 
developed by Nature Kenya and 
implemented by Government agencies 
and local communities, thanks to 
funding by the Darwin Initiative of the 
UK, the Royal Society for the 
Protection of Birds, and BirdLife 
International. Monitoring is a vital part 
of taking action for the conservation 

Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



of IBAs: it provides an early warning 
of emerging problems and helps to 
assess the effectiveness of conservation 
measures. 

The Kenya monitoring framework 
looks at the habitat, existing 
management practices, birds and other 
taxonomic groups to evaluate the 
condition of the site. The information 
is collected by local communities, 
Government officers, Nature Kenya 
members and other visitors. It is then 
fed into the IBA computer database at 
the Ornithology Department of the 
National Museums of Kenya by Nature 
Kenya Research Fellows based at the 
Department. 

A report on the monitoring process 
and results was launched in August 
2004 by Professor Ratemo Michieka, 
the Director General of the National 
Environment Management Authority 
(NEMA), representing Professor 
Wangari Maathai (the Assistant 
Minister for Environment and 2004 
Nobel Peace Prize Winner). 

The report, "Kenya's Important 
Bird Areas, Status and Trends, 2004" 
details the state, or condition, of the 
sites. It also lists the pressures 
impacting on the IBAs, and the 
response, or conservation actions, 
taken by local communities, 
Government institutions and non- 
government organisations. 



November 2004 



27 



This information can now be used 
by managers to better manage 
protected sites, and by local 
communities to guide their efforts on 
the ground. The report can also be used 
to report on Kenya's obligations under 
international agreements, in particular 
the Convention on Biological 
Diversity. The report is available from 
Nature Kenya. 



Site Support Groups 
take action for IBAs 

Friends of Kinangop Plateau (FoKP) 

The friends of Kinangop Plateau 
(FoKP) are active in the conservation 
of the Kinangop Highland grasslands. 
FoKP has some 200 members 
distributed across two branches in the 
North (Murungaru and Engineer) and 
two in the South (Njambini and 
Magumu/Nyakia). 

FoKP collaborates with KENVO of 
Kikuyu Escarpment to implement a 
project funded by the European 
Union's Biodiversity Conservation 
Programme to improve local 
community awareness and livelihoods 
via income generating activities. The 
group also has a well-established 
monitoring scheme. 

Kakamega Environmental 
Education Programme 

The Kakamega Environmental 
Education Programme (KEEP) hosts 
over 400 children every week at the 
environmental education centre 
equipped by Nature Kenya with 



support from the Global Environment 
Facility/UN Development Programme 
Small Grants. KEEP has also 
established a mobile education unit to 
visit schools. The butterfly exhibit has 
started producing pupae now sold to 
overseas markets via Kipepeo. Local 
farmers are producing pupae and 
beginning to earn some income from 
the forest. KEEP has planted over 
10,000 seedlings and liaises with the 
Forest Department to raise more 
seedlings. 

Kakamega Biodiversity and 
Conservation Group has changed name 
to Kakamega Guides Association 
(KAFOGA). In collaboration with 
the BIOTA biodiversity research 
component of the Institute of Zoology, 
Department of Ecology, of the 
University of Mainz (Germany). 
Nature Kenya will promote detailed 
monitoring in Kakamega Forest by 
KEEP and KAFOGA. 

Kijabe Environment Volunteers 

At the Kikuyu Escarpment forests, 
Kijabe Environment Volunteers 
(KENVO) have come of age and are 
implementing conservation initiatives 
ranging from tree planting, income 
generating activities and cultural 
dancing with an environmental 
message, to policing and monitoring 
the Kereita Forest. KENVO has 
established linkages with the private 
sector, as exemplified by recent 
funding by Carbacid Ltd to plant some 
10,000 seedlings. KENVO won a 
bronze medal in the Total Eco- 
challenge 10 million trees competition, 
for greening degraded sites within 
Kereita Forest with indigenous trees. 



28 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



An umbrella association for forest 
user groups, Kereita Forest and 
Wildlife Conservation Association, 
was established with key input from 
KENVO. The association is expected 
to enter into agreements with the Forest 
Department for Participatory Forest 
Management under the proposed 
Forests Bill, 2004. 

Mt Kenya Biodiversity Conservation 
Group 

On the western slopes of Mount Kenya, 
the Eco-Resource Centre (ERC) 
continues to take shape. Construction 
work started in July 2003 and so far 
the shell has been completed, with the 
assistance of a GEF/UNDP Small 
Grant. Support is still needed to engage 
a site manager and set up a Nature 
Kenya regional office with full Nature 
Kenya functions. 

The Mt Kenya Biodiversity 
Conservation Group has embarked on 
a cultural and environmental program 
involving local schools, Nairobi based 
schools and community-based 
conservation organisations. Summit 
Ventures has become the group's 
business arm. 



Mukurwe-ini Environment 
Volunteers 

Mukurwe-ini Environment Volunteers 
(MEVO) have initiated a process to 
rehabilitate the Hinde's Babbler habitat 
by planting trees along river valleys. 
Some 1000 seedlings of Cordia 
africana have been potted, and priority 
for planting will be given to farmers 
who still host Hinde's Babbler in their 
farms to encourage farmers to keep a 
habitat suitable for the species. John 
Chege, the Nature Kenya intern, is a 
member of the Divisional Environment 
Committee. 

South Nandi Biodiversity 
Conservation Group 

South Nandi is a beautiful forest that 
deserves more concern and visitation 
than the current levels. Joel Siele, the 
Nature Kenya intern, has been very 
active in building the capacity of the 
South Nandi Biodiversity 
Conservation Group (SONABiC). 
SONABiC has raised some 4000 tree 
seedlings and is working with the 
Forest Department to develop a 
campsite in South Nandi that may 
generate some income for the local 
community. 




Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 29 



Focus on Arabuko- 
Sokoke Forest 

Two major projects co-ordinated by 
Nature Kenya aim at improving 
community livelihoods while 
enhancing the conservation of this 
unique forest. 

Kindernothilfe (KNH) and NABU 
(German BirdLife Partner) Project 

The water component on the southern 
edge of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is 
underway. Local community 
consultations, mobilisation and 
training for established water user 
associations have taken place. The 
water piping lines have been surveyed 
and cleared and the National Water 
Department of the Ministry of Water 
is drawing up ground plans. Soon the 
local community will be enjoying 
piped water, and this is expected to 
reduce movements in and out of the 
forest in search of fresh water. 

The community water user 
association SONGEA has built forest 
conservation into their objectives, and 
it has been made clear that the success 
of the project (and therefore the 
investment) is measured on the basis 
of improved forest quality. However, 
there are still many challenges in the 
process of involving the local 
community. 

The eco-tourism component is co- 
ordinated by Anastacia Mwaura. 
Activities include training local guides; 
developing guiding operational 
guidelines; marketing Arabuko-Sokoke 
forest to the hotels, and improving 
services and safety in the forest. Three 
new groups - Mida Giriama Dancing 



Group, Mida Creek Conservation and 
Awareness Group and the Kilifi Branch 
of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Guides 
Association (ASFGA) have been 
established. Two existing groups - 
Singwaya Cultural Group based in 
Roka and Sabaki Conservation Group 
- are going through a strengthening and 
consolidation programme. 

Arabuko Sokoke Project, funded by 
the United States Agency for 
International Development (US AID) 

Based on aspects the Strategic Forest 
Management Plan for Arabuko- 
Sokoke, this project is implemented in 
collaboration with four Government 
institutions - Kenya Forestry Research 
Institute (KEFRI), Kenya Wildlife 
Service (KWS), Forest Department 
(FD) and National Museums of Kenya 
(NMK). Washington Ayiemba, 
formerly manager of Kipepeo, is 
managing the project. 

The pilot Participatory Forest 
Management (PFM) process at the 
Dida section of the forest is now being 
concluded. The results are being taken 
up by the Forest Department for 
replication at other two areas of the 
forest. Monitoring of birds and habitat 
in Arabuko-Sokoke is ongoing and 
sample plots have been surveyed. 
Domestic wood lots are now being 
established for the 10,000 seedlings to 
be planted outside the forest. It is 
estimated that some 40 hectares of 
wood lots around the forest will help 
reduce pressure on the forest since 
alternative timber and fuel wood would 
be availed outside the forest. 

Reported by Paul Matiku, 

Anthony Kiragu and Fleur Ng 'weno, 

Nature Kenya 



30 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



Inaugural Waterbird 

Ringing Course for Africa 

at Watamu 

Wanyoike Wamiti, Bernard Amakobe and Titus Imboma 

Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya 

< kbirds ©africaonline. co. ke> 



Introduction 

The Nairobi Ringing Group (NbiRG) 
was honoured to host and participate 
in the first AFRING (African Waterbird 
Ringing Scheme) course, held at A 
Rocha Kenya's Mwamba Bird 
Observatory and Field Study Centre in 
Watamu, on the north Kenya coast, 
from 19-26 th September 2004. 

Many waterbirds are migratory, 
moving between water bodies, and in 
many cases, between continents. By 
catching, measuring, ringing and 
releasing waterbirds, we are able to 
learn about their movements and life 
histories. This information can later 
be used to support their conservation. 

The course, sponsored by the 
African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement 
(AEWA), focused on East Africa first, 
as our ringing scheme is relatively well 
established. The Ghanaian delegates, 
members of the Ghana Ringing 
Scheme, shared ideas and information 
from their wader ringing experiences 
in Ghana. Doug Harebottle, AFRING 
coordinator, coordinated the course. 
Training was provided by Colin 
Jackson (Director, A Rocha Kenya), 
Dieter Oschadleus (from SAFRING) 
and Doug Harebottle. 



The African-Eurasian 
Waterbird Agreement 
(AEWA) 

The Agreement on the Conservation of 
African-Eurasian Migratory 

Waterbirds, better known as AEWA, is 
part of the Convention on the 
Conservation of Migratory Species of 
Wild Animals signed on June 23 1979 
in Bonn, Germany. This convention is 
also called the Bonn Convention or 
CMS. The Agreement encourages 
international co-operation action to 
conserve migratory waterbird species, 
and identified the need to set up 
waterbird ringing programmes 
throughout Africa. The implementation 
of this Priority has been assigned to 
AFRING (African Waterbird Ringing 
Scheme), based at the Avian 
Demography Unit, University of Cape 
Town in South Africa. 

Experiences, exposure 
and training 

The eight trainee delegates were 
Clamsen Thade (Tanzania Wildlife 
Research Institute), Sigawa Mgassi 
(Wildlife Conservation Society of 
Tanzania), Hamlet Mugabe (Wildlife 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



31 



Conservation Society, Uganda), 
Alfred N. Ali (Ghana Wildlife 
Conservation Society), Samuel 
Kofi Nyame (SNV Netherlands 
Development Organisation, Ghana), 
and the three of us representing Kenya. 
Three additional volunteers were based 
at the site during the training: Simon 
Valle (University of Rome, Italy), 
Donall Cross (Fermanagh, Ireland) and 
Stefan Addler (NABU, Germany). 

The participants had a wide range 
of bird ringing exposure and 
experiences, which offered a wonderful 
opportunity to share skills and 
knowledge. The course started with 
theoretical sessions on the ethics and 
responsibilities of being a bird ringer 
but also included discussions on 
catching techniques, mapping, and how 
to analyse and disseminate ringing 
information. Most of the practical 
training was done in the field at two 
wetland sites, Mida Creek and Lake 
Chem-Chem. 

We practiced setting up fine nets for 
catching waders, extracting the birds 
with extreme care and keeping them 
briefly until they could be ringed. We 
gained experience in identification, 
ageing, and sexing (where possible) the 
birds, placement and closing of steel 
rings, taking various biometrics (such 
as wing, tarsus, head, bill and weight 
measurements), recording moult, and 
accuracy in data recording. We also 
assessed . the importance of 
reconnaissance visits - time spent in 
reconnaissance is never wasted! 

The study sites 

Three nights, till dawn, were spent at 
Mida Creek, to catch and ring coastal 



32 



November 2004 



waders. Mida Creek is a beautiful tidal 
inlet south of Watamu, fringed with 
mixed-mangrove forest. It is one of 
Kenya's 60 Important Bird Areas (IB A) 
and an important site for waterbird 
conservation internationally, with 
many thousands of migrant birds 
spending their non-breeding season 
there. This IBA is adjacent to other 
biologically important sites: Arabuko- 
Sokoke Forest, Gede Ruins, and 
Africa's first marine national park - 
Malindi-Watamu Marine National Park 
and Whale Island. A Rocha Kenya, a 
Christian conservation organization, 
has been involved in the establishment 
of a suspended boardwalk through the 
mangrove forest, proceeds from which 
raises funds to support the Arabuko- 
Sokoke Schools and Eco-tourism 
Scheme, ASSETS. 

One session, from dawn, was spent 
at Lake Chem-Chem for freshwater 
species. The unprotected Lake Chem- 
Chem, north of Arabuko-Sokoke 
Forest, may have formed as an ox-bow 
lake from the Sabaki River. Maize 
farms now cover the hill slopes 
surrounding this freshwater wetland. 
Waterbirds on the lake are counted each 
year as part of the African Waterbird 
Census. We had only one morning 
session there, but it gave us a taste of 
how ringing techniques and planning 
can change depending on the habitat 
type. We also practiced catching and 
ringing small birds for three mornings 
around Mwamba Field Study Centre. 
The following are bird highlights from 
each study site. 

Mida Creek: Crab Plover, Ringed 
Plover, Lesser (Mongolian) 
Sandplover, Greater Sandplover, Grey 
Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, 

Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



Sanderling, Broad-billed Sandpiper, 
Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, 
Common Greenshank, Terek 
Sandpiper. 

Lake Chem-Chem: Ringed Plover, 
Kittlitz's Plover, Little Stint, Curlew 
Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper. 

The way ahead 

As a ringing group, it is our 
responsibility to see that the skills we 
gained are put into action, and we look 
forward to more waterbird ringing in 
Kenya. AFRING have already 
identified target species, including 
intra- African migrants such as Sacred 
Ibis, Cattle Egret, Greater and Lesser 
Flamingos and Great White Pelican. 
For example, in South Africa, they are 
colour-marking individual birds which 
can then easily be seen and reported, 
to help to understand their movements. 




Cattle Egrets by Nani Croze 
Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



So do not assume that the flock of 
Cattle Egrets you usually see are 
always the same, take a few minutes 
and see if they have coloured rings on 
their legs! 

Acknowledgements 

Many thanks to the African-Eurasian 
Migratory Waterbird Agreement 
(AEWA) who set up this project and 
provided the funding for the course. 
The Highlands Ringing Group, in 
northern Scotland, also made a 
financial contribution; we are grateful 
for their backing and hope to continue 
to involve them. We are very thankful 
to A Rocha Kenya for providing the 
venue, accommodation, meals and 
other logistics, and especially to Colin 
Jackson for taking the time to be with 
us for the entire week, and for 
generously sharing his wealth of 
knowledge about bird ringing. The 
entire staff at Mwamba was very 
hospitable, and our fellow delegates 
created a friendly atmosphere. We 
thank the Royal Society for the 
Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the 
Nairobi Ringing Group who provided 
funds through the National Museums 
of Kenya's Department of Ornithology 
for our transport, and the many other 
people who assisted in one way or the 
other. The course organisers deserve a 
big thank you for making a complex 
subject so enthralling. 

For details on the numbers of birds 
caught at Mida, Chem-Chem and 
Mwamba during each session and a 
photo summary of the course, please 
visit the following website, courtesy of 
AFRING: http://www.uct.ac.za/depts/ 
stats/adu/safring/kenya2004.htm 



November 2004 



33 



REPORTS 



Summary of the workshop 

Vulture Conservation in 
the Masai Mara 

National Reserve, Kenya 



Edited by Munir Z. Virani and Muchane Muchai 

<munir. virani@bigfoot. com> <muchai @africaonline. co. ke> 

Art by Nan/ Croze 



In the last decade, there has been a 
catastrophic collapse in 
populations of vultures of the genus 
Gyps in south Asia. Research revealed 
that the pharmaceutical diclofenac 
sodium, used as a medicine for cattle, 
is the primary cause of the extirpation 
of these populations. When vultures 
in south Asia fed on cattle carcasses, 
the chemicals accumulated inside 
them, causing thousands of Gyps 
vultures to die. 



~** 




In view of these findings, the 
Department of Ornithology, National 
Museums of Kenya, in collaboration 
with The Peregrine Fund, organised a 
workshop on vulture research and 
conservation at the Fig Tree Camp, 
Mara National Reserve on 23rd June 
2004. 

The aim was to develop an action 
plan to monitor vultures in the Mara 
National Reserve and its environs, as 
part of efforts to keep their populations 
stable and healthy for future 
generations. The purpose of the 
workshop was to maintain the 
ecological and biological integrity of 
vulture populations in the Mara 
National Reserve and its environs. 
Participants comprised stakeholders of 
the Masai Mara National Reserve, 
including lodge managers, wardens, 
and representatives of surrounding 
group ranches. 

The workshop was divided into two 
sessions. The first comprised a series 
of presentations by experts that 
highlighted the lethal effects of 



34 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



diclofenac sodium on vulture 
populations in south Asia through 
contaminated livestock carcasses. This 
session also introduced the important 
role that vultures play in the East 
African savannahs, the threats facing 
them and how veterinary and 
diagnostic investigations can play a 
crucial role in understanding how these 
threats can be alleviated. 

In the second session, participants 
were divided into two groups. Group I 
discussed and formulated strategies to 
combat threats faced by vultures and 
how to create awareness. Group II 
addressed aspects related to research 
and monitoring of vultures. There was 
general consensus amongst the 
participants that more work needs to 
be done on vultures in the Mara to 
achieve conservation goals. 

The workshop culminated in the 
drafting and approval of a "Mara 
Vulture Workshop Resolution" that 
recognised the global importance of the 
Mara ecosystem as a world heritage site 
and as a home for vast numbers of 
vultures that are threatened by various 
factors. The Resolution recommended 
that: 




^U 




• Immediate and intensive multi- 
faceted ecological studies be conducted 
on vultures and birds of prey in the 
Mara and its environs to better 
understand species requirements 

• As feasible, a grass-roots education 
and awareness programme be launched 
at various localities in and around the 
Mara 

• The various stakeholders of the 
Mara enhance ways to mitigate threats 
to vultures and ensure their survival. 

• The Government of Kenya to assist 
in protecting vultures and other birds 
of prey 

• Mara stakeholders to 
participate in funding 
research on vultures. 

• Results of vulture 
research in and around the 
Mara to be incorporated 
into an overall Mara 
management plan. 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



35 



REPORTS 

Summary results for the July 2002 and January 2003 waterbird counts 



(a) Rift Valley Lakes 
Wetland 

Lake Bogoria 

Lake Nakuru 

Nakuru Sewage Treatment Ponds 

Lake Elmentaita 
Lake Sonachi 
Lake Naivasha 
Lake Magadi 

(b) Wetlands around Nairobi 
Wetland 

Manguo Floodplains, Limuru 
Limuru Sewage Ponds 
Tigoni Golf Country Club dam 
Dandora Oxidation Ponds 
Thika Sewage Ponds 
Kenyatta University Sewage Works 
Kahawa Sukari Dam 
Nairobi National Park 
Langata Wetlands (Hillcrest) 

(c) Kenya Coast 
Wetland 

Lake Chemchem 

Mida Creek 

Malindi Harbour 

Sabaki River Mouth 

Kensalt 

Tansy's Pool (Forest) 

Kararacha (Forest) 

(d) Lake Victoria Wetlands 
Wetlands 

Sondu Miriu River Mouth 
Nyamware Rice Field 
Kisumu Sewage Ponds 
Impala Park/Dunga Beach 



Date 


No. Birds 


No. Species 


11.01.03 


92,772 


28 


21.07.02 


134,121 


28 


12.01.03 


1,154,117 


62 


28.07.02 


778,407 


46 


12.01.03 


4,103 


43 


28.07.02 


2,745 


29 


25.01.03 


49,582 


53 


25.01.03 


611 


15 


26.01.03 


7,474 


65 


02.02.03 


33,157 


35 


Date 


No. Birds 


No. Species 


08.01.03 


840 


29 


08.01.03 


295 


23 


08.01.03 


28 


3 


15.01.03 


8,790 


48 


19.01.03 


1,759 


42 


29.01.03 


115 


19 


29.01.03 


197 


22 


22.01.03 


94 


22 


22.01.03 


101 


20 


Date 


No. Birds 


No. Species 


1.2.03 


688 


30 


8.2.03 


4,340 


12 


1.2.03 


1,619 


27 


2.2.03 


13,236 


41 


2/2/03 


2,649 


28 


1.2.03 


11 


4 


1.2.03 


4 


4 


Date 


No. Birds 


No. Species 


25.01.03 


832 


26 


25.01.03 


42 


13 


25.01.03 


201 


21 


26.01.03 


396 


26 



36 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



Monitoring of Waterbirds in 

Kenya 

July 2002 & January 2003 counts 

Alfred Owino 

Summarised from the Research Reports of the Centre for Biodiversity 

National Museums of Kenya: Ornithology, 47 (2003) 



Overview 

In July 2002 and January 2003, 153 
volunteers counted waterbirds in 
Kenyan wetlands as part of the African 
Waterbird Census (AfWC). A total of 
28 wetland sites were covered: Eight 
in Kenya's southern Rift Valley, nine 
around Nairobi, seven at the Kenya 
north coast and four wetlands around 
Lake Victoria. Results for each 
wetland are given in table form. 

The seven Rift Valley lakes held a 
combined total of 1,347,738 birds of 
86 species in January 2003. As usual, 
flamingos accounted for over 90% of 
the total number of waterbirds counted 
on the Rift Valley lakes. Aerial counts 
were also conducted at Lakes 
Elmenteita, Sonachi, Oloidien and 
Magadi in January 2003, courtesy of 
the World Conservation Union (IUCN) 

Acknowledgements 

The waterbird counts are a 
collaborative effort between the 



Department of Ornithology (National 
Museums of Kenya), Nature Kenya, 
and the Kenya Wildlife Service. The 
count organisers are very grateful to the 
volunteers, including members of 
Important Bird Areas site support 
groups, and all who contributed in 
various ways to make the January 2003 
waterbird counts a success. The funds 
for the exercise were provided by the 
Bird Committee of the East Africa 
Natural History Society (Nature 
Kenya), World Wide Fund for Nature 
(WWF), Royal Society for the 
Protection of Birds (UK BirdLife 
Partner), Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust 
(UK) and Kenya Wildlife Service 
Wetlands Programme. The count 
organisers are very grateful to the 
World Conservation Union (IUCN) for 
conducting aerial counts at key 
southern Rift Valley lakes during 
January 2003, and to A Rocha Kenya 
and the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya for 
organising wetlands counts at the north 
coast and Lake Victoria wetlands 



(e) Aerial counts 

Wetland Date No. Birds 

Lake Elmentaita 26.01. 03 25, 580 

Lake Sonachi 26.01.03 250 

Lake Oloiden 26.01.03 570 

Lake Magadi 02.02.03 6,780 



Great White Great Greater 

Pelican Cormorant Flamingo 

80 22,500 

400 



Lesser 
Flamingo 
3,000 

250 

170 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



37 



respectively. In addition, we thank the 
landowners around Lake Naivasha for 
their kind support in offering boats and 
assisting with various logistics. Our 
special thanks go to the volunteers for 
their continued support of the waterbird 
monitoring programme in Kenya. 

Participants in July 2002 and 
January 2003 waterbirds counts 

Antje Ahrends, Jack Amisi, George 
Amutete, Keven Apidi, Rosemary Bahati, 
Albert Baya, Dorothea Brass, Paul Buckley, 
Rose Bwire, Betty Charo, Bernard Chege, 
Reuben Chege, Raphael Cherops, Musa 
Cheruiyot, Reuben Cherutich, Ben Chirchir, 
Franklin Chitwa, Jeff Davis, Douglas 
Gachucha, Ann Gathitu, Isaac Gathitu, 
Carol Gatune, Patrick Gichuki, David 
Gikonyo, David Gitau, Edward Gitau, Polly 
Goodwin, Elizabeth Hamilton, Narinder 
Heyer, Geoffrey Howard, Titus Imboma, 
Wycliffe Ingarah, Colin Jackson, Vicky 
Jebichii, Rael Juma, George Kagwe, Martin 
Kahindi, Job Kamanda, Elias Kamande, 
Dominic Kamau, James Kamau, Norman 
Kamau, Patrick Kamau, Peter Kamau, 




Marabou by A/an/' Croze 

38 November 2004 



Anthony Kangethe, Richard Kanwony, 
Samuel Kanyongo, Daniel Kariithi, James 
Kariuki, John Kariuki, Evans Kemboi, 
Daniel Kariithi, James Kariuki, John 
Kariuki, Evans Kemboi, Moses Khazalwa, 
James Kimaru, Lazaras Kimathi, Michael 
Kimeri, Irene Kinuthia, Moses Kinuthia, 
Muoki Kioko, Onesmus Kioko, Joab 
Kiprop, Anthony Kiragu, Lydia Kisoyau, 
Bernard Kuloba, Anthony Kuria, Elizabeth 
Kuria, Ben Kyalo, Fredrick Lala, Samson 
Lokorodi, Dominic Loponu, John 
Mwakwaka, Maaike Manten, Ruben Marry, 
Alex Mbiriri, Philip Mechle, Stephen 
Mihunga, Evans Mkalla, Yumiko Mori, 
Muchai Muchane, W. Muiruri, Ronald 
Mulwa, Rufus Murigu, Julius Muriuki, 
Fabian Musila, John Musina, Sabi Muteshi, 
Christopher Muteti, Elius Mwachia, 
Jonathan Mwachongo, John Mwangi, Ogeto 
Mwebi, Harrison Mwenda, Timothy 
Mwinami, Nicodemus Nalianya, Kariuki 
Ndang'ang'a, Peter Nderitu, Robert Ndetei, 
Charles Ndung'u, Bonface Ng'ang'a, 
Robert Ng'ang'a, Milka Ngugi, Fleur 
Ng'weno, Mercy Njeri, Jennifer Njogu, 
Stella Njuguna, Maurice Naligu, Moses 
Nyamu, Eva Obingo, John Ochieng, Sam 
Ogel, Anne Okelo, Mpakany Olevatambo, 
Alex Oloo, Allai Orimba, Nickson Otieno, 
Alfred Owino, Shailesh Patel, Labeille 
Perrine, Spencer Radnich, Charles Rugalas, 
Alex Sempele, Johnstone Seroney, O. Shah, 
Itai Shanni, Edai Shanny, Anderson Tuitoek, 
Alice Vosena, James Wachira, Mike 
Wairoma, Wanyoike Wamiti, Esther 
Wangui, Edith Wanjiru, Rose Warigia, 
Ishmael Waweru, Mark Samuel Abukui, 
Bernd de Bruijn, Brkit van Dan, Leonard 
Njoro Githinji, Jesse K. Irungu, Aboala 
Mohamed Khamis, Philip arap Kirui, 
Wilson K. Koskei, Sinom Nganda Musila, 
Rose Njoki Mutero, Joseph W. Muthuru, 
Joseph Kariuki Mwangi, Francis O. 
Ogando, Amos Otieno, Marlene Reid, 
Lispar Wachira, Thomas Kazungu, Anthony 
B. Wandera. 

The 2003-2004 Report will be 
published in Kenya Birds Vol.11 no.2! 

Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



SHORT NOTES 



Notes on Ruma\v 
National Park \^ 

Ruma National Park is one of Kenya's 
60 Important Bird Areas, and a non- 
breeding habitat for the threatened 
Blue Swallow, an intra-African 
migrant. It is also the only place in 
Kenya with a viable population of 
Roan Antelopes. 

Ruma NP is in the Lambwe Valley 
of Nyanza Province, at an altitude of 
1200 to 1500 metres above sea level. 
It is only 40 km from Homa Bay town. 
The park is mainly savannah 
grassland, with tall grass, bushes, and 
acacia and fig trees, and is drained by 
the Olambe and other rivers. Animals 
in this park include leopard, hyena, 
serval cat, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, and 
antelopes such as roan, topi, reedbuck 
and oribi. Ruma is infested with tsetse 
flies and mosquitoes, and this has 
attracted research organisations, 
including ICIPE, which have a wide 
range of research activities in the park. 

Poaching for bush meat is a big 
problem in this park. The local 
community is engaged in consuming 
and selling game meat. We were told 
the meat is taken as far as the 
Tanzanian border. This is becoming a 
booming business, and threatening the 
existence of the park and its wildlife. 
During our visit to Ruma, we 
volunteered to remove snares, and we 
managed to recover more than 30 
snares. We were also lucky to see the 
rare and beautiful Blue Swallow. 

Moses Khazalwa wa Amiani 
<koribustard2001@yahoo.com> 



Allen's Gallinule at 
Lake Baringo 

Visiting Samatian Island in Lake 
Baringo in August 2003, we saw 
at least 12 Allen's Gallinules. 
They were on the eastern shore of 
the lake, opposite Samatian 
Island, in reeds that were about 
two-thirds of a metre tall. We 
suspect there were many more 
than the 12 birds we saw, as heads 
were popping up all the time and 
they were seen flying from one 
perch to the next and climbing on 
to the vegatation as described in 
Zimmerman et al. 

Other interesting sightings in 
the area: Purple Swamphens, 
Yellow Crowned Bishops 
Northern Red Bishops and early 
Barn Swallows. 

Philip & Ros Hechle 
Patrick & Karen Plumbe 

Roosting Wagtails 

On August 4th 2003, 1 happened 
to be at the Karen Post Office at 
6.40 pm, and was surprised to see 
large numbers of African Pied 
Wagtails, approximately 30 to 40, 
coming in to roost in a single 5- 
metre high tree growing isolated 
from any other shrubbery right 
next to the building. I have not 
seen African Pied Wagtails 
roosting communally like this 
before. 

Tony Seth-Smith, Nairobi 
<tonyss@africaonline. co. ke> 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



39 



SHORT NOTES 



The time the Storks 
passed by Olorgesailie 

George Eshiamwata <george. eshiamwata ©birdlife. or. ke> 
Art by Andrew Kamiti 



The onset of rains in dry country 
triggers a drastic change in the 
habitat, in turn influencing the 
bird life. The short but heavy rains that 
pounded different parts of the country 
in December 2000 - January 2001 did 
not spare the area around Olorgesailie 
Prehistoric Site on the Nairobi-Magadi 
road. To the Maasai herdsmen, this was 
a great boon, and to the birding 
fraternity it brought a stunning 
spectacle. 

Storks started streaming in to the 
flat green plain near the village of Ol 
Tepessi on January 6. The first arrivals 
were about eight Abdim's Stork. They 
were followed by some Black Storks, 
a large flock of White Storks, then 





November 2004 



uncountable Marabou Storks and a 
small number of Woolly-necked 
Storks. This magnificent influx 
increased day by day, becoming 
thousands, with White Storks the most 
abundant. Flocks of Cattle Egrets and 
a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes also 
visited the area. 

Each day the storks demonstrated 
their mastery of the air, a spectacle all 
in black and white. While some soared 
overhead, others perched, some 
landing on the ground with a thud to 
glean the ground. They seemed to be 
feeding on fat green caterpillars that 
had appeared on the fresh and luxuriant 
vegetation. Other insects in the new 
green growth ranged from small flies 
and beetles to grasshoppers. 

It was a marvellous sight, 
and even the local people were 
amazed; most of them could 
not remember the last time such 
a large population of transient 
birds had made a stopover in 
their area. Some could not 
believe that some of the storks, 
the White Storks, could have 
come all the way from the 
northern hemisphere, and I had 
a chance to tell them the story 
of bird migration. Equally 
amazed were birders Shailesh 
Patel and Bernd de Bruijn, 

Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



visitors to Olorgesailie, who informed 
other bird watchers in Nairobi, who 
came on 14 January to witness and 
marvel at this spectacular sight. 

It took about three weeks for the last 
flock to leave, though there still 
remained a small remnant population 
of solitary birds. Where they had been, 
we could see thick mats of the plant 
Tribulus terrestris - an annual plant 
with bright yellow flowers and spiky 
seedpods that makes optimal use of the 
short rains to grow and colonise a 
place. It hosts many different 
caterpillar species. 



Olorgesailie is an important 
prehistoric site, about 70 km. south of 
Nairobi on the Magadi Road, and about 
46 km from Magadi. It is famous for 
the many ancient stone axes found 
there, and recently, bones of early 
people have also been found. 
Olorgesailie is also a popular bird 
watching site, and 443 bird species 
have been recorded in the vicinity. It 
was the site of the study of the Banded 
Parisoma reported elsewhere in this 
issue, and you may even see a Banded 
Parisoma that I ringed with a coloured 
band as part of that study. 



July White Storks 
and Opportunistic Lanner Falcon 



A flock of White Storks, about 
thirty in all, was seen at the side of 
the road near a small puddle of 
water in the Mara Conservancy on 
July 22, 2003. This was some 15 
kilometres to the west of the Mara 
Serena Lodge, on the main road that 
runs from Kichwa Tembo, past 
Mara Serena and on to Keekorok, I 
am reporting this, as I thought that 
all migrants had left for Europe 
before the end of July? 

On July 23, 2003, flying in the 
balloon from Little Governor's 
Camp, on the plains west of the 
Mara Serena, a Lanner Falcon dived 
past the balloon. Our pilot, Elle 
Kirkman, told us that the Lanner is 
a frequent visitor to the flying 
balloon. When the balloon flies low 
over the ground, the spurfowl and 
francolins are disturbed, and as they 
fly up, the Lanner takes the 



opportunity to make a kill. Just 
amazing how a wild creature can 
utilize man's noisy machinery to its 
advantage. 

Grete Davey, Athi River 

Comment: In the Middle East, 
White Storks are known to start 
moving away from their breeding 
sites as early as late July, but to see 
a group in East Africa in July is 
something different. There is a 
possibility that a bird might over- 
summer in Africa, but a group of 30 
is not a lone bird... 

From my experience, it is not 
unusual to see a pair of Lanner 
Falcons hunting, one doing the 
chasing and the other surprising the 
prey (like some big cats). So in an 
area where a hot-air balloon is doing 
the chasing, one individual can do 
the surprising. 

Itai Shanni, Bird Committee 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



41 



Mystery Bird Photo 
Challenge # 1 Solution 



by Itai Shanni 



Photos and introduction on inside back cover 



Bird # 1 

The bird shows a strong insectivore bill 
- partly shadowed by a branch above 
the bird, which causes some confusion. 
This bird has a rust-coloured top of the 
head and an overall greyish back with 
some dark streaking, and a short tail (a 
bit hard to see from this angle). 

This combination of features 
(especially the bill) immediately rules 
out all seedeaters (weavers, sparrows, 
buntings and most larks), and leaves 
us with the more slender LBJ's (Little 
Brown Jobs): pipits, or cisticolas and 
other warblers. 

The rusty colour of the head that 
contrasts with the grey, black-streaked 
back, rules out pipits, limiting us down 
to warblers. Of all the species of 
warblers found in Kenya (other than 
cisticolas), only two have this patterned 
back. The Sedge Warbler has a dark cap 
and very strong white supercilium (thus 
ruled out); and the very rare vagrant 
Grasshopper Warbler has a slim build 
and narrowly streaked undertail- 
coverts (obviously missing in our bird). 
So we are left with only the cisticolas. 

A combination of rusty head and 
streaked back brings us into the group 
of Winding, Carruthers's, Levaillant's, 
Croaking, Rattling and Stout 
Cisticolas. Both Croaking and Rattling 



are ruled out as these are usually very 
streaked on their heads and show less 
contrast between head and back 
(Rattling also has a more greyish 
appearance). Levaillant's Cisticola is 
slimmer and more heavily streaked on 
its back. 

Down to three species, check the 
bill size and shape, wing colouration 
and habitat. Stout Cisticola has a 
streaked forehead and bright rufous 
nape, while both Winding and 
Carruthers's have a plain rusty head 
(except for juveniles, which also have 
streaked crowns, but yellow throats and 
underparts). However, in our photo the 
shadow of the branch makes it very 
difficult to see how streaked (or 
unstreaked) the forehead is. 

Both Winding and Carruthers's are 
usually best defined by their very 
strong rufous wing panel (more 
brownish in Carruthers's and less 
striking in the coastal subspecies of 
Winding). The bill size of these two 
species is usually slender, as is their 
overall appearance, and they will 
usually be in a wet swampy habitat. 

In our bird, the lack of rufous wing 
panel is obvious but can be caused by 
the angle and light (though some of it 
should still be visible). However, the 
very strong, stout bill (that made some 



42 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



of our readers think that this might be 
a weaver or a sparrow) is clear. 

The size is hard to assess, but it is a 
comparatively stocky, heavy headed 
Cisticola. The bird sits on a species of 
Acacia tree that is more likely to be in 
a dry habitat, but of course cannot be a 
leading clue to identification. The 
rufous crown and nape, combined with 
the streaked back and bulky 
appearance, together with the lack of 
any obvious rufous wing panel, makes 
this bird a Stout Cisticola. 

From all answers that we received, 
43% identified this bird correctly as a 
Stout Cisticola (photographed at 
Nairobi National Park 5 th March 03 by 
Itai Shanni). 

Bird # 2 

In contrast to bird #1, in this case it is 
quite obvious that the bird pictured is 
a Hornbill. The big size (assessed by 
comparing to the figs in front of the 
bird), short legs, black and white 
colouration, long tail, some signs of the 
bill (just the lower mandible can be 
seen) and the upright posture, all 
together give this bird the 'jizz' of a 
Hornbill. What is left is to define which 
Hornbill it is! 

Hornbills can be categorised into 
four major groups regarding their 
habitat: Dryland, Woodland, Forest and 
Ground. A fruiting Fig Tree can be a 
major attraction, so the habitat in this 
case cannot be a leading factor for 
identification, except for the ground 
species, which are ruled out. Since the 
bill shape and colour are not very 
obvious in this photo, another very 
important feature in identification of 
hornbills is out. 



We are left with main body colour, tail 
pattern and some head markings. Our 
bird has a mainly black body with some 
white on the under-wing coverts and 
some white on the primaries. The tail 
seems to have an extended white tip, a 
broad black band and some white 
under- tail feathers. 

The combination of these features 
leads us into a group of four species: 
Trumpeter, Silvery-cheeked, Black- 
and-white-casqued and White-thighed 
Hornbills. 

Trumpeter has a black tail with a 
narrow white terminal band. It also has 
a black throat and upper breast clearly 
separated from the white lower breast 
and belly, and is therefore ruled out. 
This body colouration is also true for 
the White-thighed Hornbill, which has 
an all-white tail with a narrow black 
central band, and in any case does not 
occur in Kenya. 

We are left with two: Silvery- 
cheeked and Black-and-white-casqued 
Hornbills. Both have a similar tail 
pattern and some silvery markings on 
the cheek (probably the biggest pitfall 
in this photo). The white under-wing 
coverts that are shown in this photo 
could appear in either species when 
perched and so cannot be used as a field 
mark. This leaves us with the one very 
distinct difference between the two: the 
white colour of the primaries of the 
Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, 
which are black in the Silvery-cheeked 
Hornbill. 

This bird was correctly identified as 
a Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill 

by 86%. (It was photographed at 
Kakamega Forest 19 th January 03 by 
Itai Shanni). 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 



43 



Bird # 3 

It is very clear that this is a Sunbird of 
some kind - the bright iridescent 
colours and behaviour of probing 
flowers are some of the most important 
features of this family. The medium 
size (compared with the Leonotis 
flower head) and the long central tail 
feathers can give some clues for the 
grouping of this bird inside the family. 

Since most sunbirds show distinct 
sexual dimorphism (where, with some 
exceptions, females are dull with little 
or no iridescent colours), it is likely that 
our bird is a male. The age is not yet 
clear. 

Here in Kenya, nine species of 
sunbirds have long central tail feathers. 
The big species, Bronze, Golden- 
winged, Tacazze, Malachite and 
Scarlet-tufted Malachite, usually 
occupy gardens, forests and forest 
edge, and alpine moorlands 
respectively. Three medium sized - 
Black-bellied, Beautiful and Red- 
chested -occupy drylands and wetlands 
respectively. The small Pygmy 
Sunbird lives in the semi-arid habitat 
of northwest Kenya. 

The two Malachite species have a 
glossier green upper-side and the 
elongated tail feathers are usually 
looser and longer. The Golden-winged 
Sunbird has yellow coloured central 
tail feathers and can also be ruled out. 
The Pygmy Sunbird is green and 
yellow and is much smaller, with much 
longer central tail feathers. It also 
occupies a semi-arid habitat where one 
would not expect to find the Leonotis 
flowering. 

Adult Bronze and Tacazze Sunbirds 



have much longer central-tail feathers 
which rules them out. The immature 
males of these species will usually have 
less iridescence (more greyish and 
female type patterns) on the head. 
Bronze Sunbirds have a greener sheen 
on the head than the blue sheen in the 
photo. 

We are left with three very similar 
species: Red-chested, Black-bellied 
and Beautiful Sunbirds. Now it is time 
for 'jizz' again. Both of the dryland 
species seem to be more greenish in the 
field (especially on their heads). 

The Red-chested Sunbird is 
described as "brilliant iridescent blue- 
green above..." compared with the 
"bright iridescent green" and 
"glittering green" mentioned for Black- 
bellied and Beautiful respectively in 
Zimmerman et al, 1996. The bulkier 
appearance of the tail in the photo also 
fits Red-chested Sunbird better than the 
much slimmer- tailed dryland species. 

From all answers that we received, 
57% identified this bird correctly as a 
Red-chested Sunbird (this adult male 
was photographed at the Nzoia River 
in Western Kenya on the 21 st January 
03 by Itai Shanni). 

We urge all of you out there to take 
part in the second Mystery Bird 
Challenge! Remember that in order to 
learn (and win) from this challenge, 
one should not just look at the plates, 
but also read the texts and distribution 
maps in the different field guides. It is 
always much easier to identify a bird 
in the field then seeing it in a photo, 
out of its context (light, habitat, 
behaviour, call...) but this may be a 
good way to sharpen your techniques. 



44 



November 2004 



Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 




Mystery 
Bird Photo 
Challenge # 1 
Solution 



by Itai Shanni 



Only one person, Muoki Kioko, 
identified all three species 
correctly in the Mystery Bird 
Photo Challenge in Kenya Birds volume 
10. As a result, we are closing this first 
competition with Muoki Kioko as the 
winner. Four other readers identified 2 
out of the 3 species correctly, these are: 
Joseph Kariuki, Jairus N. Koki, 
F. Alexander and Wendy Stanley. 

Continued on page 38 




Kenya Birds, Volume 11:1 



November 2004 




Mystery 
Bird Photo 
Challenge 

#2 

What birds are these? 

Identify them all and win a 

prize! 

Your answer must include: 

1. The bird's English name 

2. The bird's scientific name 

3. The number on the photo 



Send your answer to: 

<office@naturekenya. org> 

or Nature Kenya, PO Box 44486 GPO, 00100 Nairobi 

clearly marked "Mystery Bird Photo Challenge". 

All entries must be received by the end of March 2005. 

Prize: Set of 3 checklists, and winner's name in the next Kenya Birds 




( «ustvy*> c 



BirdMfe 

INTERNATIONA I 



RSPB 



% 



NatureKenya 

The East Africa Natural History Society